Part 2 of 3| Emails Show Total Disregard for Public Purse

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The Sault Ste. Marie Professional Firefighters Association Local 529 obtained a package of emails through a Freedom of Information request that show the machinations that led, despite concerns expressed by the director of human resources, Peter Niro, to the setting of a starting wage of $103,344 for two public educators. A mechanical officer and a training officer received the same starting wage.

This is the second of three parts providing excerpts from the flow of emails between city staff, with major emphasis on those from Niro, whose questions and comments seem to point to a process gone horribly wrong.

And there will, of course, be the occasional interjection from yours truly:

August 15, 2016, Mike Figliola to Peter Niro, cc: Tiffany Fleming, CAO [Al] Horsman

Subject: Realignment

This has not been announced or the persons affected have not yet been notified, so highly confidential. A brief synopsis of the changes to Fire Services staffing:

Al and I have been agreed and signed off to the following changes based on aligning with the new Corporate Strategic Plan and continuation of the Fire Services Realignment Plan.

We have had a cumulative “gapping” of 86 months for nine vacant positions, eight firefighters and one EMS Manager since May 2015.

ALIGNMENT/ BRANDING

The department will be renamed Fire and Paramedic Services and Fire Chief will become Fire & Paramedic Chief.

CREATING NEW POSITIONS

New Titles (5 in total), Emergency Planning and Research Officer, Training Officer, Mechanical Officer, Public Education Officer (2).

There was also a list of jobs that were being reclassified.

In the report by Fire Chief Mike Figliola proposing the realignment that was approved by council on Oct. 26, 2015, a mechanic, not a mechanical officer, was listed.

I have put an editor’s pen to the email immediately following as in it Niro repeats much of the information that was carried in an email in the opening piece of this series yesterday.

August 17, 2016 Peter Niro to Malcolm White

Niro repeated the following paragraph from council’s resolution approving the realignment:

“It is further resolved that the chief, fire services in conjunction with the commissioner of

human resources and city solicitor and with consultative input from key stakeholders, including

the affected collective bargaining units, implement the realignment over a three-year transition

period.”

Niro said the following is what is actually being proposed through additional positions requiring a posting and/or a salary change, for both bargaining unit and non-union positions.

Specifically, public education officers, a bargaining unit position, are to be paid the same as fire prevention officers in his (the chief’s) proposal.,..not sure about the equality in pay argument here….again I would recommend “low balling” until we can negotiate with the Union. An argument can be made that they have the right to negotiate the rate of pay now.

Please remember the bit Niro says about public education officers being paid the same as fire prevention officers, which at 102% of a first-class firefighter’s wage comes out to $91,661. Because, as you will see from the third part of this series that will appear here tomorrow, the eventual wage for some strange reason was boosted to 115%, resulting in the starting no-step wage of $103,344.

Old Quality Assurance Position – non -union position – Not approved in restructure.

Job Class 6 to Deputy Chief EMS (Professional Standards Training and Development) Job Class 9. DSSAB (District Social Services Administration Board) has this position in house so not sure why the need for two positions given we are levied by DSSAB. This function was to be undertaken by the four new Supervisors as part of their duties.

  • Manager of EMS Job Class 7 to Deputy Chief EMS OPS Job Class 9 – Not Approved in the

restructure. Same basic job function xxxx xxxx has been doing. Why the automatic

increase? It should proceed through job evaluation.

  • Mechanic Officer- new- bargaining unit position. Not Approved in restructure. Why would we give a captain’s wage of 115% to direct one other mechanic – this in addition to the mechanic approved during caucus (Caucus is a closed session. This was actually approved by council in open session on Oct. 26, 2015). Union would have to negotiate this so why start at the top of the pay scale?
  • Manager of Administration – non-union position – Not approved in restructure. Question the qualifications of the administrative assistant being promoted from Job Class 2 to Job Class 6, over $40,000 increase. This one in particular is very concerning to me from a cost and job evaluation perspective.
  • Paramedic Supervisors- non-union positions – Approved in restructure. Recently hired EMS/Paramedic supervisors hired as Job Class 6 “under review”. Only four months on the job and now have been changed to Assistant Chief/EMS Commanders Job Class 7. How is this even possible when it’s the exact same job and has not even met the required six-month waiting period for the originally assessed job classification?

Job evaluation implications: These changes undermine the integrity of the job-evaluation system and our non-union salary grid. New positions (that have never existed in title or function) are the only positions that should have an “estimated under review” job classification. The balance are really just changed positions which should remain at their current level until proceeding through job evaluation.

Niro closed this email by saying that even if approved by council in part, it should have been developed in concert with applicable human resources staff as council directed. At the very least, he says, human resources should have been consulted on the job descriptions and the new recruitment approval form before proceeding to the CAO, not after the fact.

August 18, 2016, Peter Niro to Mike Figliola, replying to an email I don’t seem to have.

RE: Realignment

I realize the savings but that doesn’t mean we don’t follow protocol, Mike, human resources should have been involved from the get-go as per policy and council resolution. I don’t believe that has happened and in my opinion we have gone way past the approval given that night in caucus (as I explained earlier, this was actually approved in an open session of council). This has serious integrity issues for our non-union job evaluation and could jeopardize our entire system from a pay equity perspective.

That being said the CAO has signed off as you indicated but my signature at least currently is also required and I’m not prepared to sign off on this until I hear further from my DCAO (Malcolm White, deputy chief administrative officer and city clerk). I know you were upset at my staff questioning the changes but I do expect them to ensure procedure is followed and both Tiffany and Ida say that this was done respectfully.

As directed by Malcolm based on my recommendation we are not proceeding with any changes save and except the compression issue which I totally support.

August 30, 2016 Malcolm White to Mike Figliola, cc: Al Horsman, Peter Niro

Subject: Fire Realignment

Further to our discussion and your discussions with Peter I want to confirm the following:

The positions of Public Education Officer (2) and Mechanical Officer can be posted immediately- HR staff will follow up.

The Deputy Chief positions will move from Job Class 8 to 9 to address wage compression issues (Peter, please make a notation in our summary listing similar to what we have used in the past for job market considerations).

The Assistant Chief-Paramedic Commander positions will remain at Job Class 6 and will be reviewed at the end of their initial six months (currently at four months).

The Training Officer position (and perhaps the Deputy Chief- EMS Standards Training and Development) need some further discussion concerning existing language in the collective agreement and the possible need for an exemption-I may be unclear about this, feel free to clarify.

For the Assistant Chief-Emergency Management, Emergency Planning and Research Officer and Manager Administration positions, Peter will review the new job descriptions and provide a tentative job class ranking. If the ranking equals the ranking proposed by yourself then human resources will proceed with the changes. If the tentative ranking is within one level of the proposed level, I recommend proceeding with the lower level pending the results of the job-evaluation process. That will avoid the need to red circle the position if the evaluation results in the lower level and the resulting negative feelings for the employee. If the tentative rank and the proposed rank differ by two or more levels, Peter will outline the reasons why and what would be required to revise the description to attain the proposed ranking. This will need to be addressed carefully if (as I understand it) the intent is to fill these positions with the current incumbents, so that the degree of change doesn’t trigger a job posting.

What really caught my attention in the group of emails presented in this, the second part of the series, was the number of positions Niro identifies as not having been approved by council.

I was also struck by his comment that the manager of administration position, being bumped from a Job Class 2 to a Job Class 6, was going to result in an increase of $40,000.

Niro said this one in particular was very concerning to him from a cost and job evaluation perspective.

It should be concerning to us all.

Doug Millroy can be reached at dmillroy@gmail.com.

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